Is Gastric Bypass Surgery Acceptable in Children

Gastric bypass surgery in children for weight loss reasons is simply a cop-out. Obesity is a serious problem in modern society, especially amongst our children, however resorting to surgery is sending out the wrong message and will not help the cause of the problem. Surely it would be more beneficial to educate children and their parents in order to improve their lifestyles and diets. Healthy diet and lifestyle habits will benefit a child in many aspects of their life, and for the rest of their life. In turn they will hopefully start to break the cycle and educate their children in the future.

Obesity has obvious long term health implications however surgery, especially in children and also in obese patients, is not without serious and considerable risk. General anaesthetics have serious risks associated with respiratory and cardiac effects of anaesthetic drugs. Respiratory and cardiac systems in the obese patient are already under extra stress due to the increased workload created by excess weight. This is especially the case for children. Surgery itself in the obese patient is more difficult simply due to the added physical complication of working through or beneath large layers of fat tissue. It often results in larger or extra incisions to facilitate access to the operative area. This extra physical challenge increases the surgery time, which is not desirable in an anaesthetised child.

Once the surgery is over the risks do not stop. Post-operative risks are also markedly increased in obese patients. Again respiratory problems such as lung infections and pneumonia are high on the list of post-op complications that are significantly higher in the over weight patient. They are also at a far greater risk of having wound infections due to moisture and sweat in skin folds. All these increased risks and complications, combined with decreased mobility due to pain, result in a longer recovery time.

Modern surgery is certainly not a death trap, however still has serious associated risks. To subject a child to these risks for the sake of a “quick fix” surgery is questionable at best. Not only does it fail to encourage any lifestyle changes it also fosters an attitude that there is a quick easy solution implemented by someone else. It is imperative that children learn healthy diet and lifestyle habits from a young age and as they get older learn to take responsibility for their own well-being and health. Education is the key, not the scalpel.